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Scott P. Richert

Sunday School: On Baptism

By April 10, 2009

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Last week, we began our discussion of the sacraments with a lesson on the sacraments in general; starting today, and over the next 12 weeks, we'll look at each of the sacraments in turn (as well as some related questions).

First up is the first sacrament any of us receive, which is why it is often called "the door of the Church": the Sacrament of Baptism.

Baptism is the prerequisite for all the other sacraments; it is our entrance into the Christian life. Baptism removes the stain of sin, both original and actual, so that we can enter Heaven, if we live holy lives. If we remain unbaptized, we cannot enter Heaven. But baptism does not have to take the form of the baptism of water, which is what we normally mean by the Sacrament of Baptism. There are two other kinds of baptism, and both baptism of blood (martyrdom) and baptism of desire have the same effects as the baptism of water, provided that we are unable to receive the sacrament.

The Sacrament of Baptism is normally administered by a priest, but in an emergency, anyone can baptize--even a non-Christian! All that is necessary is that the form be correct--pouring water on the head of the person to be baptized and saying, "I baptize you in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit"--and that the person performing the baptism intend by his action what the Church intends in baptizing (namely, to bring the person being baptized into the Church).

In the Catholic Church, baptism is normally administered to infants. Because such children are too young to make the promises that we make in baptism (chief among them to renounce Satan and all his works and pomps), godparents are chosen who make those promises on their behalf. Along with the saint whose name the child is given in baptism, the godparents bear a particular responsibility for guiding the spiritual life of the child.

Baptism, as was mentioned in Question 148 and Question 149 of last week's lesson, can be received only once, because it leaves an indelible mark on the soul. Therefore, converts to the Catholic Church who received baptism in another Christian denomination are not "rebaptized" but, instead, receive the Sacrament of Confirmation as the mark of their entry into the fullness of Christ's Church. And next week, we'll turn our attention to confirmation.

Lesson Fourteenth from the Confirmation Catechism has 14 questions. Note that the lesson begins with Question 152, continuing with the numbering from Lesson Thirteenth.

In the First Communion Catechism, the parallel lesson this week is Lesson Twelfth. It includes 5 questions drawn from Lesson Fourteenth of the Confirmation Catechism.

Check out this week's lesson, and if you have any questions, please leave them in the comments or ask them in the Catholicism Forum!

Previous Lessons in Sunday School:
April 14, 2009 at 9:33 pm
(1) Barbara Tahir says:

I just finished reading this week’s section on the Sacrament of Baptism. I have always wondered where we get the IDEA of Baptism — did John the Baptist make this ceremony up? I do not think it is a part of the Jewish religion, so where did it come from?

April 15, 2009 at 1:20 pm
(2) Reg says:

I’ve always wondered the same thing — ever since I was a young lad and realized that the work and concept are first mentioned (to my knowledge) in the N.T. St. John the Baptist is in the wilderness baptizing, but where did the concept come from??

April 21, 2009 at 8:07 pm
(3) Barbara Tahir says:

Well Reg, looks like we will have to continue to wonder about this. It took me years and years to finally find out how we decide the date of Easter (even nuns and priests did not know that one for a long time). Now it will take me another 50 years to find out where we picked up the idea of Baptism!

April 21, 2009 at 8:13 pm
(4) Scott P. Richert says:

Barbara, sorry I haven’t responded–I’m planning to use your comment and Reg’s as the basis of this week’s Reader Question! Hang in there–you’ll have your answer on Thursday!

February 17, 2013 at 9:59 am
(5) jo says:

Catholics believe baptism is necessary for salvation.
VATICAN II declared this in #7 of it’s decree Ad Gentes:
“Therefore, all must be converted to Him, made known by the Church’s preaching, and all must be incorporated into Him by baptism and into the Church which is His body. For Christ Himself “by stressing in express language the necessity of faith and baptism (cf. Mark 16:16; John 3:5), at the same time confirmed the necessity of the Church, into which men enter by baptism, as by a door. Therefore those men cannot be saved, who though aware that God, through Jesus Christ founded the Church as something necessary, still do not wish to enter into it, or to persevere in it.” (Dogmatic constitution by Vatican II: Lumen Gentium 14) Therefore though God in ways known to Himself can lead those inculpably ignorant of the Gospel to find that faith without which it is impossible to please Him (Heb. 11:6), yet a necessity lies upon the Church (1 Cor. 9:16), and at the same time a sacred duty, to preach the Gospel. And hence missionary activity today as always retains its power and necessity.”

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